It's San Francisco in 1957, and an American masterpiece is put on trial. Howl, the film, recounts this dark moment using three interwoven threads: the tumultuous life events that led a young Allen Ginsberg to find his true voice as an artist, society's reaction (the obscenity trial), and animation that echoes the poem's surreal style. All three coalesce in hybrid that dramatizes the birth of a counterculture. Written by
Sundance Film Festival
"Howl" for Carl Salomon. I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night...
[continues reading but unheard, credits roll]
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Wonderfully evocative faux-documentary that showcases the poem. The animation sequences stick close to the literal denotation of the textual images. Some have found that approach unsympathetic, but I disagree. Part of what I love about the poem is its twisting of banality into surrealist mysticism (Plotinus in Oklahoma, Blake in the heavens over New Jersey and demon Moloch on Madison Avenue). The contrast between the intensely colored fantasy animation and the back-and-forth to black-and-white convey that contrast nicely. Others would like to see something else; let them make something else.
David Strathairn as the prosecutor is wonderful. The scene when he inadvertently (I assume) falls into Ginsberg-ian imagery ("When I open my mouth, fists come out") is worth the whole price of admission.
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